1st Sunday of Lent B

Did you hear that Pope Francis wants to change the words to the Our Father?  I first saw it on Facebook and I thought… well you know… fake news.  Buy as I saw it from more reputable sources, I thought it was worth looking into.  Of course, you cannot change the words of Jesus, so we are really talking about the translation of those words.  And the line he has focused on is one that has troubled me for a long time.  “And lead us not into temptation.”  Have you ever thought, “I have enough going on in my life without YOU leading me into temptation?”  And I think if God were to lead you into temptation, can you really get out of it?  As the Pope says, a Father would not do that to his children.  He prefers what the French Bishops have already adopted and is current in Spanish.  “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

I appreciate that way of phrasing it.  I am glad we are taking the onus and the ownership of temptation away from God.  Not just the Our Father but our everyday language betrays our sense of God’s responsibility.  How many times have you said, “God, how did I end up in such a mess?” It is not that God is incapable of bearing the blame or our anger.  In our most searing pain, we have no choice but voice our anger to God.  It is ok.  God has the biggest shoulders.  But the problem comes when we do it too often, we make our greatest champion our enemy.  If God is the source of our pain, we will not turn to Him as our comfort.  If God is the problem, we will not think of God as the solution.

The weekend’s spare depiction of the temptation of Christ leads me to think of the very nature of temptation.  If we examine it honestly, we know it is not God’s fault.  We know that as long as there is something we think we deserve; as long as there is someone whom we might take advantage of; as long as there is someone ranked ahead of us, we will be tempted.  After all, the quickest way to the top might be by climbing over someone’s back and the shortest route to the finish line is a short cut.

And that is what temptations are – shortcuts.  Since Adam and Eve wanted knowledge without earning it, the story has been the same.  We would rather not do the hard work of healing relationships; we choose to cheat or cut a corner, convincing ourselves that no one is really being hurt; we exploit the weaker one.  We harm our body to satisfy our needs for a short time.

And how are we to resist these temptations? The other temptation of Christ gives us an answer.  It occurs in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before he was to die on the cross.  Here Satan plays a more subtle role. After following the Father’s command unwaveringly throughout his life, Jesus suggests his own short cut.  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me” He does not want the suffering and the humiliation of the cross. It lasts but a moment as he continues, “Still, not my will but yours be done.”  Jesus takes on the cross, he suffers and he dies.  And we can know without a moment’s hesitation that we are loved, precious and saved.  What other path could have made it  that clear?

Jesus tells us to “Take up our cross daily” because temptations come to us every day.  If we share in the burden of the cross, if we make our goal to sacrifice, to be selfless and to love the best we can, then we will have given the liberation of true care.  We will truly be disciples of Christ.

In our own lives, let us mirror the choice of Jesus and say yes to the long way of love and sacrifice.  Let us reconcile and heal broken relationships; let us be an ally to those who are weak; let us patiently listen and serve.   You will probably not get to the finish line first.  But what is the point of “winning” if at the finish of the race the race, all that you can show for your efforts are those whom you have hurt, ignored or taken advantage of laid strewn behind you?  What would be the point if you got there all by yourself?  Instead take the time and the effort to be a repairer of the breach, a peacemaker, a lover.  Let us come to that finish line as a family, a community.    Take up your cross to resist temptation.  Then you will earn the crown of salvation with integrity, in communion with God and neighbor and in love.  That is the definition of success.  “Father, do not let us fall into temptation.”